Internet Rumors and Speculation Cast Pall on Koenig Acquaintance (KTVA.com exclusive) - UPDATED with response from James Koenig, Samantha's father
Young man named in prior court documents leaving state because of what police say are unfounded accusations
ANCHORAGE - Wednesday afternoon, three-year-old Nevaeh Bird sat on an overstuffed couch in the front office of Rex Lamont Butler & Associates law firm.
She was waiting for her father, 24-year-old Christopher Bird, who sat conferring with his mother and his attorney behind the closed door of an office down the hall.
They had come here a lot recently.
After 18-year-old Samantha Koenig was kidnapped from her work at Common Grounds Espresso coffee stand on the night of February 1, the internet came alive with speculation about her disappearance. Police said an armed man took her, and anonymous comments left on published news reports and rumors passed along via Facebook and Twitter began pointing at Bird.
Police said they had investigated Bird as part of initial investigations but he had never been named as a suspect in the case.
“All you have to do is identify the wrong person and all of a sudden they’re public enemy number one,” said APD spokesman Lieutenant Dave Parker.
The public reaction to Koenig’s abduction included a webpage asking baristas to post pictures and descriptions of “suspicious customers” in order to establish a database of potential criminals. The page administrator, who identified himself only as “Ron,” declined to speak on camera for fear of retaliation.
While police said independent efforts and unfounded accusations only detracted from their investigation into Koenig’s disappearance, Bird’s name had already been tied to hers on paper several months prior.
In November, Koenig had filed for a restraining order against Bird, but she failed to appear in court again and the order was never issued. With the information publicly available through online court record systems, Bird’s name began to crop up on comment boards and online forums almost as soon as Koenig’s kidnapping was announced.
Police said it was speculation with dangerous consequences.
“If someone were to say, ‘John Doe is responsible for Samantha’s disappearance,’ John Doe all of a sudden is a possible subject of attack,” Parker said.
For Bird, it was a possibility with very real effects. He said he moved back to Alaska from North Carolina a year ago. Newly divorced, with sole custody of his only daughter, he had been working as a frontline chef at Sullivan’s Steakhouse and studying at the Academy of Hair Design when he was expelled soon after Koenig disappeared.
“[The owner] said he had to remove me because it’s bad publicity; it’s going to ruin his clientele,” said Bird, dressed neatly in jeans and a dark winter jacket. “He was like, ‘I can’t have you in my school, your name is blasted all over the front page, someone’s gonna come in here and shoot up my shop!’”
Over six feet tall, Bird leaned forward in the straight-back chair in Butler’s office, wearing an intense expression and a military-style blonde haircut.